The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
With no advance notice The Night Circus shows up in towns all over the world. It brings magic and mystery and wonder to the towns where it alights without warning. But, none of that is anything compared to the mysteries of the circus folk themselves. I've seen a lot of comparisons to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel, but this book deserves better. I thought Strange got so much credit because of the sheer volume of the task undertaken. It seemed that the end product was an accomplishment, but just not as great of a book as people made it out. I, for one, was more than a little disappointed.
No disappointment here. Two magicians have been waging an ongoing strange battle. Each of them chooses a student and then they prepare them for a competition. However, neither of the students is aware of the test, or the stakes. Celia and Marco are each discovered and taken under the wing of one of the two master magicians. Hector Bowen recognizes Celia's gifts and he works with her to make the most of them. Alexander takes in Marco and trains him. Neither of the students has any concept that they are essentially weapons used by their mentors. They've been burdened with a destiny and the reader's job is to watch how it all plays out. Thank goodness Morgenstern makes our task so enjoyable.
The Night Circus was created as the battle ground. It is an awesome display of invention and magic and beauty. Celia and Marco not only try to top one another with the attractions they devise, they also create for each other, as they fall in love, not realizing the fate that awaits them. It was lovely and tragic and romantic, all at once. How often can you say something like that?
Morgenstern created a thing of beauty with this book. Not only are Celia and Marco interesting, complicated and extremely likable characters, their love story is sad and strange and beautiful. They aren't even the only characters that this description applies to. I really did enjoy this book. The circus people and the magicians and the people affected by them all were well worth my time. I was sad to see the story end, but it did, and very satisfyingly.